NEWS | July 7, 2014

West Virginia National Guard members add new facet to relationship with Peru

By Sgt. Anna-Marie Ward West Virginia National Guard

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Members of the West Virginia National Guard's Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package added another facet to the State Partnership Program recently.

Members of the team traveled to Peru to lead a training event aimed at better preparing Peruvian military personnel and first responders for disaster response. Much of the training focused on immediate recovery operations that will help save lives following a natural or man-made disaster involving infrastructure.

Soldiers covered basic training in breaching and breaking (gaining access through concrete, steel or other structural components); patient packaging; search and recovery; and confined space patient transport. Training demonstrations in higher-level rescue techniques were also given.

Military and first responders in Peru do not have the same breadth of knowledge in search and rescue, according to Maj. Walter Hatfield, WV CERF-P officer-in-charge. He also noted that lack of equipment has been an issue for the Peruvians. However, he said that he hopes that through continued training and knowledge sharing, CERF-P members can help their counterparts overcome some of these concerns.

In addition to gaining important search and extraction skills, the Peruvians were also able to build valuable teamwork abilities - something that they may not do very often.

"On day one, each entity had their own little formation," Hatfield said. "At the closing formation, they all wanted to be in a formation based on their teams, not their affiliation."

Hatfield further explained that this training is invaluable because of the likelihood of a natural disaster in the coastal country.

"This type of Search and Rescue training is vital because South America's west coast is a segment of the Circum-Pacific Seismic Belt where more than two-thirds of the world's large magnitude earthquakes occur," he said.

Team members gained a wealth of knowledge and skills during the four-day session. WV CERF-P members noted that the training was extremely successful and they could see students' confidence levels increase from day one through day four. Hatfield added that both students and trainers expressed an interest in returning for advanced training.

"This training provided life-saving skills necessary in the event of a natural or manmade catastrophe," said Staff Sgt. Brad Convery, search and extraction team leader. "It also gives the military and civilian rescue agencies a chance for integrated training."